Spain eyes 2018 World Cup soccer prize as fitting end to year

MADRID (Reuters) - Being chosen to host the 2018 World Cup would be a fitting end to a year in which Spain were crowned world champions, Spanish sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky said on Tuesday.

FIFA delegates started their four-day inspection visit of facilities in Spain and Portugal on Monday to assess their joint bid to host the finals in 2018 or 2022.

"The perfect end to the year, in which the greatest collective feet in Spanish sport was achieved by winning the World Cup finals in South Africa, would be that they awarded us the event to host," Lissavetzky told reporters.

"I am convinced it will be 2018," he added, after a meeting with the FIFA committee in Madrid.

Delegates were shown round the Spanish capital visiting infrastructure facilities, Real Madrid's training complex at Valdebebas where they met Portugal international Cristiano Ronaldo, and their Bernabeu stadium, the proposed final venue.

Later on Tuesday, the inspection team were traveling by high-speed train to Barcelona before moving on to Porto and finally Lisbon to wrap up their tour.

"Spain are one of the favorites," said Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba who also attended the meeting.

"Everyone knows we are prepared, that football is the national sport, and that Spaniards are passionate about football.

"We have excellent stadiums, good communications, magnificent hotel capacity and very good security. We are there, I don't know if we are the first choice, but it isn't our decision."

Spain, who last hosted the World Cup in 1982, and Portugal and competing against England, Russia, the United States, and another joint bid from Belgium and the Netherlands to stage the finals in 2018.

(Writing by Mark Elkington; Editing by Ed Osmond)